What’s in a name?

Last Monday I gave another talk on the Large Hadron Collider, this time in Tauranga. It led to the usual kind of questions (like what is a Higgs Boson?, how fast are these protons going?, how can they be 100% sure it is safe, etc), plus a few less obvious ones, like could they use the collisions to generate power, and what dose of radiation will the workers get from those high energy particles?

Anyway, that was all fine (not that I know the answers to all of them), until right at the end the organiser thanked me, and said to the audience "You might not know, but as well as being a physicist Marcus is also an accomplised neurophysiologist".

Err. I don’t think so. Just as being from Mexico does not make you a swine flu carrier (sorry, Influenza A (H1N1) carrier) so doing some scientific research into the way the brain behaves does not make me a neurophysiologist. Unfortunately my protests fell on deaf ears, and I got a new barage of questions, along the lines of "My father has Parkinson’s disease – is it right that he should try such and such…".  Time for a hasty exit and my retreat back over the Kaimai hills to Hamilton.

But ‘neurophysiologist’? Sounds impressive, doesn’t it. Much better than plain boring ‘physicist’, or even bio-physicist. I wonder why that is. Maybe its because it involves a combination of two themes, neither of which the average man in the street quite understands. So perhaps the ideal scientific job title to have is something with three or more themes in it. What about astrogeopharmacist, or biovulcanological engineer? Whatever they are.

 So, for the record, I am a physicist. Hence the choice of name PhysicsStop. But NeurophysiologyStop might work too. 

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